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Stanley Clarke - School Days CD (album) cover

SCHOOL DAYS

Stanley Clarke

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.61 | 47 ratings

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js (Easy Money)
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars School Days is the third and final album in Stanley Clarke's great trio of progressive rock influenced fusion albums (Stanley Clarke, Journey to Love, School Days) that he released in the mid-70s. Although maybe not always quite as ambitious as the first two albums, School Days is probably the most mature and developed, making it the best of the three. Curiously enough all three of these albums seem to follow a pattern: one lengthy orchestrated jazz fusion 'suite', a modal acoustic number featuring McLaughlin, Corea or both and a few high octane virtuoso rock/funk numbers with guitar shredding by Ray Gomez or Jeff Beck.

There's a difference with this third album, the melodies and songwriting are just better. The first two songs feature catchy tunes that tempt you to hum along, how many fusion records out there really have a melody that doesn't sound like someone taking random shots at a fretboard or keyboard. The third song, The Dancer, is about one of the finest I have ever heard. Stanley sets up this ultra-tasty groovelicious world beat/funk circular thump-pop pattern over which Ray Gomez and David Sancious harmonize a Zappaesque Lydian melody. Optimistic, bright and slightly Caribbean, I never get tired of hearing this one.

Desert Song opens side two with McLaughlin and Clarke playing rapid fire acoustic solos. Their skills are admirable, but that 70s style of overly flashy fretwork gets old to me. This song does have one section where it sounds like McLaughlin is channeling Pete Townsends chord work on Underture. Next up, Hot Fun gets things back on track with a catchy melodic funk bass line and great horn and string arrangements. Once again it's the superior melodies that make the difference.

The album closes with one of Stanley's big orchestrated jazz suites with a bit of his usual for that time shot at EW&F vocals. This is the only song on the album that features Billy Cobham and George Duke and they raise the already virtuoso playing on here by yet one more notch. Unfortunately Clarke will take a turn for the commercial after this album, his third final and best of his progressive rock/jazz fusion releases.

js (Easy Money) | 4/5 |

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